Seeing Sound – A Step on the Journey from Concept to Art

Materials

I like to use re-purposed materials in the work that I do. Most frequently, I make use of clothing or old bedsheets. While occasionally I will use non-traditional materials such as newspaper or VHS tape, I just prefer working with fabric. Perhaps you may not consider re-using old clothing as doing much to combat the landfills, or you may just see it as a fun hobby to upcycle clothing like the ReFashionista (an amazing site, btw), but you’d be wrong. I actually work for a 2nd hand store during the day, have been for over 3 years now, and I see every single day how much textile waste we create. What I use may not be making much of a dent in huge piles of waste we create, I also do my part to not add to that pile if I can help it.

Working with what I have

GERather than seek out some specific pattern or shade, I have to work with what I have available to me. While there are some constants when working with clothing – denim is plentiful and will almost always be some shade of blue – I cannot always anticipate what I will have at my disposal. Even with the items I have already, I often forget what I have shoved into the corners of my closet so it’s usually a surprise. It is good to learn the basic properties of common fabrics/fibers and how to identify them when there is no label present. There are entire books written on fabric properties/ identification.

Playing Around

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine paid me to hem several pair of jeans for him. As I often do, because I hold onto GEeverything and have nightmares about turning into a hoarder, I saved the scrap bits that I’d cut off from the bottoms of the legs. I decided to take them apart and flatten them out. When I did that, I noticed something interesting. The creases and crinkles of the original hems create a pattern which, to me, looks something like sound waves. I wasn’t sure how, but I knew I wanted to incorporate them into my artwork. Immediately, my thoughts are turning to the sounds of screams and crying – the sounds of arguments late at night. Of course, the sound wave patterns created by screaming look quite a bit different, so I’m going to claim a little bit of artistic license. My next thought is to isolate the throat, the organ that creates sounds. I do an image search for throat scans and throat xrays to get an idea of what they look like. Sure, I could go with the tongue and tonsil image I see when I open my mouth in the mirror, but I want to go a little further, I want to see the voicebox itself… And so it is that I will spend (waste) half an hour or better just looking for just the right diagram or image that I might want to incorporate…

What am I working on?

In case you haven’t read my previous post, each year, 40 North – the arts council for Champaign county, orchestrates the Bonyard Arts Festival throughout Champaign-Urbana, IL and the rest of the county. I am registered with 2 different venues (more details at the bottom of this entry) and have set to work creating artwork for this festival. At C4A I am set to display artwork during April 12-13 and at Habitat for Humanity I am set to conduct a live demonstration on April 13, from 1-5pm, on artistic things that can be done with used clothing.

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From Concept to Art – The Beginning of a Journey

Each year, 40 North – the arts council for Champaign county, orchestrates the Bonyard Arts Festival throughout Champaign-Urbana, IL and the rest of the county. I am registered with 2 different venues (more details at the bottom of this entry) and have set to work creating artwork for this festival.

Concepts

It is hard to say where concepts originate and as this is a work is progress, it is hard to say where it will end up. This is where making use of a sketch or art diary is quite helpful. There have been a variety of ideas and images floating through my mind, as well as personal conflicts and issues that I’ve had to deal with (or in some cases, will likely never cease wrestling with) that all influence each other and as well as my art. So, as it currently sits, these are some of the keys concepts influencing my art – a window into the inner workings of my mind, if you will:

  • The Mind Itself. While I have always had an interest in psychology and how the mind works, the more I learn, the more fascinated I become with it. I have a BA in Anthropology, but while I was in college I also took some courses in cognitive psychology and a course in cognitive anthropology in my final year that I keep looking back on. I saved all of my notes/recorded lectures/books. I’ve been re-reading some of those books for fun. It’s amazing how much more sense they make when I’m not trying to scan for class content or cram dozens of pages in overnight. I actually have time to take it in now.
  • Domestic Violence. Both as I read articles online and as shadows of my past run amok in the recesses of my head. Experiences I had as a child are part of who I am as a person today. Memories have given me many nightmares. They color the lens with which I see every romantic relationship. It is not that I choose to wallow in painful events or that I haven’t been able to let go, but that I accept it as part of my composition as much as I do the schools I went to or the communities I grew up in.
  • Human Anatomy and Biology. I’ve been watching a lot of House this month. It is one of my favorite shows of all time and I’ve only this past week gotten to watch the 8th and final season.

    The wound man was a figure from medieval medical books depicting various battle injuries. I’ve actually been intrigued by this since my high school days. Image from Retronaut.

    S0, I’m kind of keen on x-rays and MRI scans for their aesthetic value as well as various organs. I’ve always been a fan of eyes and anatomic hearts. However, beyond that, I am also interested in their functions – both biologically and symbolically. While we know it is not scientifically accurate today, I kind of find some old medical texts and ideas to be interesting – things like the balancing of the humors or the different functions and attributes placed upon various organs.

 

2013 Boneyard Details – At C4A I am set to display artwork during April 12-13 and at Habitat for Humanity I am set to conduct a live demonstration on April 13, from 1-5pm, on artistic things that can be done with used clothing.

Reflecting on Hatch

In my last post, I briefly mentioned that I was gearing up to work on entries for the Hatch show and I’ve been MIA since. Hatch was this past weekend and it was fantastic. Now that it is over, I want to get back into the blogosphere. What better way to jump in than to share with you all of my wonderful experiences from this event?

What is Hatch?

Hatch was a creative-reuse art happening in Champaign, Illinois that was put on through the I.D.E.A. Store. There were 2 components to this show: the Art Exhibit and the Art Fair. Please see the official Hatch page for the full list of participants and their contact info! The exhibit is hosted at Indi-go Artist Co-op and will be on display through March 17, 2013. The fair was a one day event that featured over a dozen vendors.

The Art Fair – Highlights

I was only able to attend the art fair for the last hour, as I had to work most of the day. I wasn’t able to take it all in in such a short time. However, from what I saw, it was a good show. These were some of my favorites-

Phyllis Hughes
Phyllis was such an interesting person to talk to. I loved her crazy quilts and the Indian batik work she had brought with her from her time spent in India. She lived there for 2 years. I’m entirely jealous.
GE
Sheila Daniels
Sheila makes jewelry from various odds and ends. Her work is exquisitely beautiful *and* she’s a fan of Doctor Who! You can’t go wrong!

This Image from Cheeky Magpie

Vintage Karma
Based in Tuscola, Vintage Karma sells handmade items from a variety of local artisans. Sadly, I didn’t take any photos here.

Karen Pritchett
Karen doesn’t have much of a web presence, but she does have a Facebook and is based in Columbia, Missouri. She makes really cute and upcycled outfits.
GE GE

The Art Exhibit – Highlights

So much amazing artwork at this exhibit. Michelle Stitzlein came in from Ohio with a couple of pieces from her Moth series as the “Artist-in-Residence”. She held a slideshow Friday night during the opening reception and it was pretty awesome. She even went to one of the local elementary schools to work with kids on making murals with bottle caps.

Some of my favorite works on display:

Melissa Mitchell
Melissa, not only an artist, but one of the volunteers that helped to make the event happen, works with assemblage art. I’ve had the privilege of seeing her studio before. There isn’t much she creates that isn’t interesting. And wacky. And sometimes just very, very wrong (but in a good way)!
GE GE

Cindy Blair Sampson
While she claims she disconnects herself from her artwork, she manages to create some very moving pieces. I found this work in particular to be very deep and moving. When you open the book, you find a key pressed into beeswax. As she said during the gallery talk, she feels the uterus to be the center of the universe. Also, the boob turns. Seriously. Interactive art!! +5 points!
GE
Laura Wennstrom
I will never look at security envelopes the same way again. She created a “quilt” from envelopes. I have to admit, when I first saw this piece, I was unimpressed. However, after hearing her talk about her piece and looking closer at the patterns stamped into these envelopes that we routinely ignore, I have to give her credit. You’ve opened my eyes to something new, Laura. And now I want to make knitting charts that resemble security envelope designs.
GE GE

Lawrence Agnello
While I didn’t really get the chance to meet him, I was impressed by his work. As the work holds it’s own, I give it to you with no further commentary.
GE GE

Deborah Fell
Another artist I didn’t get the opportunity to talk to, but her artwork was too cool for me to overlook. I have no intelligent words or critiques here. I just simply find them interesting and captivating.
GE GE

Fabric of Society and My First Juried Show

This show was also a very big deal for me, personally, as it was my very first juried show. I entered into the fair and 2 pieces for the exhibition. One of those pieces I stayed awake for over 35 hours working on. Only 1 piece was accepted (not the one I lost sleep over, haha). However, I feel thrilled that I even made it in at all… I heard that there were over a hundred applicants. I was able to participate in a gallery talk on Sunday, where artists were spotlighted and able to discuss their artwork and answer questions. I had a lot of fun with that. I even managed to sell my artwork that afternoon, and in talking to the people who purchased my artwork, I am overjoyed that it will be going to someone that truly appreciates and *gets* the concept.
I suppose you’d like to see the piece? I call it “Fabric of Society”. I’d shown it previously at 3T: Third Thursday Art Show, and I have to credit Adam Perschbacher for the initial photos that I used for the application. I honestly think his photos made a difference in getting accepted.
FabricofSociety FabricofSoceity1

This is me trying to sound smart while talking about my artwork.

This is me trying to sound smart while talking about my artwork.

I spun strips of newspaper into yarn and knitted this placard, which, when looked at closely, reads “TRUTH?”
The artist’s statement underneath reads:

The News. We count on reporters to give us facts and report the truth. Based on this information we make a myriad of important decisions… some personal, some public and having important effects upon others. We’d like to believe that we can trust the journalists and reporters to be objective, most of us know better. We are, after all, only human and so we are prone to biases. Whether intentional or not, what we claim to be factual and true ends up twisted and distorted, spun to serve some purpose or other. Like fiber spun into yarn. It is these twisted truths that are knitted up, unrecognizable, to create this fabric of society. And we wrap ourselves up in it, like a blanket, for comfort and warmth. But what is truth? Could we Recognize it if we saw it? Can you?

Be Kind, Please Rewind: VHS Tape as Yarn

I’m not entirely sure why I decided to try my hand at working with VHS tape. Perhaps I just wanted something different to try, perhaps it is because VHS tapes are hard to recycle where I work and I wanted to help find a way to make use of them (I work for a second hand retailer, we try to recycle almost everything that doesn’t sell/ can’t be sold, but last I checked, we didn’t have a place to send VHS tapes). In any case, I’ve been playing around with using old VHS tape as yarn, on and off,  for the last couple of weeks.

WARNINGS

While writing this article, I came across a Flickr discussion on the topic citing health dangers adherent in magnetic tape (VHS and cassette tape). Read the full discussion complete with further links here: Warning- Crafting with old cassette/ video tape. Basically, the tape contains cobalt, chromium and iron, which can break down or come off as dust from the tape. The iron may not be so much of a problem, as humans naturally have iron in their bodies (though too much iron can be bad), but cobalt and chromium are certainly toxic and can cause cancer. I am not telling anyone not to use these tapes, and I, myself, have not had any issues with it yet, but I want to bring the health concerns to attention so you can make up your own minds.

Trial and Error

While I don’t really have any finished projects right now, there are certainly some things I have learned in the process of trying to work with this material that I want to share.
The first idea I had was to use it to make a “Letters From Mr. Right” letter holder/wallet/clutch from Melissa Horozewski’s Austentatious CrochetThis required that I pull on the tape to stretch it and make it thinner and more pliable. It is harder to get the tape stretched out uniformly if you are impatient and are trying to get a lot of it in a short time. I ended up getting blisters/ friction burn on the sides of my index fingers. I recommend using leather or garden gloves, this will not only help prevent the blisters I got, but it will also help prevent getting any dust on your skin if your tape happens to flake off on you. I also learned that if you pull too hard the tape will snap apart. If you look, it’s kind of hard to see the texture of the cluster stitch used. It just looks like a blob to me.

Because I got tired of pulling on the tape so much, I decided I’d also try using a bigger hook and crocheting with the straight tape, no stretching. Because there is no prep work needed, it works up a lot quicker. I don’t have much done with it yet, and it’s entirely possible I’m just going to scrap the exercise because I’m just not fond of it. This experimental piece is just a single crochet around a chain, in the round.

Other VHS Artwork

Now, while I’ve determined that I’m not entirely fond of working with the VHS tape, there are other people out there that do work with it and have done things with it that I like:

Diane Gilleland used it to make flowers to accent a straw purse. She also used the casings to make bookends. – Craftstylish.com

Cindy from My Recycled Bags made a cute little sling purse – MyRecycledBags.com

Adrian Kershaw manages to turn VHS tape into absolutely gorgeous fine art – Crochet Concupiscence

Zilvinas Kempinas created this awesome tunnel installation – Lost At E Minor

Erika Iris Simmons created several portraits from VHS and cassette tape – VHS Art Representations

“I’ll have a plaid milkshake, please!”…

…Replies my comedian friend, Buddah Eskew, when I posted to my personal Facebook page last night about putting fabric in a blender. “…What were you trying to do?”, asks another friend and fellow textile artist, Rachel Suntop of CoolClimates.

I wanted to make paper

I don’t like just throwing away material when I think that they might still have some use. I have an entire bag that is just scrap materials, a big bag full of smaller bags – scrap lace, scrap cotton, scrap fleece, etc. Over the last week, I have been trying to think of ways to use them, because I need to do something with them or get rid of them – I’ve been carrying some of them around since high school! I honestly couldn’t tell you what made me think of paper, but once the thought was in my head, it wouldn’t leave. I was determined to make paper using scraps of fabric.

Hasn’t anyone made paper from fabric before?

Because I’d never made paper before, let alone from fabric, I needed to get a basic understanding of how to go about such an endeavor. So I hit up teh internets. While I found several different videos and pages on how to make paper using old papers, I couldn’t really find much on how to make paper from fabric – at least not in the DIY arena. (There do exist companies that make paper from resources other than commonly used wood pulp, Conservatree lists several sources, including Arch Paper which makes their paper from 100% post-consumer textiles, like unsold or used clothing.) So, I followed the basic instructions for using paper, but substituted fabric instead.

The Setup

What you will need: A Small Tub of Water; A Blender; A Screened Frame; Towels; A Bucket or Large Pot; An Iron; Paper and/or Fabric Scraps

The best video I saw was How to Make Paper: Basic Steps by Arnold Grummer.

Homemade screened frame

He makes it look so easy and quick. I mean, the video only lasts about 9 minutes and doesn’t really cut away. I’m kind of cheap and didn’t want to go spending money for a kit and I’m also impatient and didn’t want to hold off until a shipment came in, so I made my own frame from an old picture frame and some window screen. I spent just under $2 at The I.D.E.A. Store here in town. I basically took the glass and backing out of the frame and sewed a piece of window screen onto it with some crochet thread.

Making a Colossal Mess

Even though my fabric scraps were small to begin with, I did cut them into even smaller pieces. You want to try to cut in squares as strips can and do get caught up in the blades/ rotating unit. Since I only have the one blender, I was worried that it would jam up and burn out the motor. My blender did survive, but please be careful when and if you do this yourself. I put all the cut fabric into the blender, added water, and turned it on. It only took a second to get entangled in the blades. Getting the fabric pulp took a lot of back and forth between the blender and the pot because I’d have to stop every few seconds and pull out the fabric from the blades. I was also helping it along but going back and cutting the bigger globs of fiber into smaller chunks as I went. It takes about 30 seconds to make paper pulp in a blender, but it took me about 30 minutes to get the fabric pulp.

Making the Paper

Ultimately, I used a mixture of fabric pulp and paper pulp to actually make the paper. (That last thumbnail is the fabric/ paper mix) I don’t really know what the ratio was, I just threw in some paper. I eyeballed it until it looked about half and half.

I made a lot more pulp than I needed and wasn’t sure how much pulp I need to put into the frame to make 1 sheet. I played around with it for awhile. That’s all I can really say at this point, if you want to try this yourself, just play around with it until it looks good to you. For me, it really is a learning by experimentation thing.

After I took the frame out of the water tub, I set in on a towel. I then covered it with more window screen and another towel and proceeded to use the palms of my hands to flatten down on the layers and soak up some of the excess water. I let it set and dry overnight. It was still damp when I went to peel it off the frame, so I had to be a little careful. I set the sheet on the towel and used the iron to dry it out. I think it turned out fairly well. I only had one clump of fiber that didn’t get broken up all the way.

Embroidery Doodling

One of the major problems I have in trying to get anything done, creative projects or otherwise, is that I get too caught up in planning and wanting to make sure that the tiniest details are perfect that it takes me forever to start or finish a project.(Anyone remember my nataraja quilt idea? I *still* haven’t quite figured out what I want to do.) As an exercise in just letting creative juices flow and not letting myself over-think, I decided to just do something. I grabbed the first spare piece of material I had (the mate for the pillowcase I used for purse lining), a small embroidery hoop and some embroidery floss and just let my hands move. Kind of like doodling. It was free style embroidery with no rules and I just sat from the outside looking in as my hands and the needle did whatever they felt like doing. It was a very freeing exercise, even if the end result wasn’t exactly all that pretty.

I don’t know why, but I really enjoyed creating swirls and circles…

I’m still not quite sure what to make of it, if anything.

Eldritch Things

Before I get too far into this post, I want to let all my readers know that you have another opportunity to see this amazing exhibition!  I just found out last night that there will be an encore showing on March 14th from 6-8pm! So, if you’re reading this, make plans to go to Jacksonville, IL that evening!

The show is hosted at the Asa Talcott House (859 Grove Street, Jacksonville, IL) by The Imagine Foundation, who provide access to the arts for communities in Jacksonville and the surrounding area. The house also gives a nice aesthetic to the show, and I think, for the level of intimacy within Mary’s artwork and writings, the location is really suitable. It helps to set the mood and the tone.

When I first walked into the house this past Saturday, I was confronted with the following note hanging from the ceiling (click to enlarge):

While there were numerous paintings around the house, all wonderful, she also put forth effort to make the show fun and interactive. All throughout the house were hidden 41 little 2-inch doodles, one of those doodles was a “king doodle” that won the finder a free pack of stickers. I found about 5 or 6 doodles, but only took 2 of them so as to let others have some fun too. As perhaps a testament to her personality, art wasn’t just found on the walls, but it was tacked to the ceiling, some hung suspended from the ceiling, sometimes upside down.

Skeleton keys hanging from the ceiling. Reminds me of rain, or tears… Could unleashing your pain, your tears, rather than suppressing them help unlock your happiness?

The thing I really love about Mary Tumulty’s work is that she really puts herself into it. Most artists take life events and put them into their art, but with Mary, her life really is in her art and vice verse. There seems to be this blur between life and art and the one feeds off the other. With particularly personal pieces, she will place little pages to the side, like a page from a diary, that puts the observer into her place.

One of my favorites. Colorful yet dark at the same time. Notice how she incorporates photos, receipts, other objects into the painting. What I see: Life. The large circle seems to be like a womb…

…and look! Here are the sperm!

If you recall, I’ve written about Mary’s work before. Back in November, I talked about her use of random embroidery and stitches in her paintings. Thread made an appearance in her artwork here as well:

From a distance…

A close-up. Look at the nails pounded into the painting! The tear in the canvas! The way the string is wrapped around the nails.. kind of like a web or a nest. This is a love it or hate it piece, I think. Myself, I like the way she abuses the canvas.

There was one room upstairs that was kind of sectioned off and hidden away. Much darker than the rest of the exhibit, this room housed the most intrusive and intimate artwork. If the house were a layout of Mary’s mind, this is would be the back of it – that little corner reserved for fears and worries, for all of those secrets and wishes that are too damaging to normalcy and decency to be unrestrained. This is where Mary bared all and let the world judge her naked soul. This is where, for the first time ever, she showed “The Book.”

These pages, snaking through the room and dangling from the ceiling like bodies from trees, whisper out Mary’s story to anyone willing to listen…

And now, it’s time to take you on my journey into Eldritch Things…

For more information on Mary and her work, visit http://www.marytumulty.com Like any of the artwork you see? Support an artist and buy a painting.  (I am the proud owner of a Mary Tumulty “On the Rag” tee)

Like my writing style? You can also become a fan of my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/ACloth-the-World/194022420703365, where I post exclusive content, including more pictures from this show!